The Gambia and Senegal are one people divided by colonialism. The two countries have very strong cultural and social ties. Almost everyone in the Gambia has relatives in Senegal and vice versa. They have the same traditions and speak the same languages. Thus, it is not exaggerating to say that they are the same people.
When the colonialists came, the two countries fell in the hands of two different colonial powers; the British, who colonized the Gambia and the French, who colonized Senegal. The borders were demarcated which even divided some families. The introduction of the languages of the colonial masters further heightened the division and thus separated the people.
Nonetheless, the two peoples have continued to maintain strong ties culturally, socially and even economically. There are a lot of intermarriages between the two. Besides, many thousands of Senegalese live in the Gambia and vice versa. The people have never really felt the division.
The two governments therefore have a very strong foundation to build upon. They can build and cement their relationship based on mutual respect and understanding as two sovereign states which must recognize and respect each other’s territorial integrity. There can be cooperation on those bases in almost all areas of development.
The convergence of the two governments at the Kairaba Beach Hotel therefore, is a welcome move that will pave the way for a better and more fruitful relationship between the two countries for the benefit of their two people. Our governments must realize that on the ground, the relationship is already good. All they need to do is to capitalize on the goodwill that exists between and amongst their people and cement the relationship.
The two countries will benefit immensely from bilateral cooperation if they choose to. The deal to supply electricity to the Gambia is a good example of how we can cooperate and work together to strengthen the ties for a better future. This can be extended to other areas of interest, but it must be based on mutual respect between partners.